Andrew Pereira Obon was born of Filipino – Malaysian parents on May 19, 1954 in Cabatuan, Iloilo, Philippines. His parents returned to North Borneo (Sabah) as it was known then. There, Andrew grew up and finished junior secondary school in Malaysia. He is the second of eight siblings of five boys and three girls. Andrew is married to Ester Bulfa Ymalay of Negros Oriental. They are blessed with four sons and a daughter.
At 13 years old, Andrew was initiated into the martial arts. He first studied traditional Taekwondo as part of his school’s physical fitness program. He later enrolled full time in a local Taekwondo Club in Tawau, Sabah. He also had the opportunity to learn Kuntao self-defense from an Indonesian Imam. Andrew also studied Chinese with a Chinese friend from a local master.
In early 1972, Andrew and his eldest sister returned to the Philippines to study at the Siliman University, Dumaguete City. In the middle of the same year, Andrew continued his martial arts training with the Negros Oriental Moo Duk Kwon Tang Soo Do Organization. Its president and chief instructor at the time was Alonso Makilan. Andrew was also a member of the All Philippines Karate-Judo Organization (APKO) under Engr. Narambolo Lopez; Philippine Karate Association (PKA) and Kapisanan ng mga Karatista ng Pilipinas (KMP) headed then by Col. Dante Nagtalon and Roberto Gonzales, respectively.
Image: APO Self-Defense Club participates in KMP Karate Tournament
In 1973, Andrew coached and headed the Dumaguete City delegation of the APKO Open Karate Tournament held in Murcia, Negros Occidental. Andrew became champion in the black belt division while his team won the overall championship. He was appointed Club Head and Chief Instructor of the APKO Central Gym in Dumaguete City in 1973.
Also, in 1973, Andrew respresented APKO in the Regional Open Karate Tournament sponsored by PKA in the West Negros Gym, Bacolod City. Despite the difficulty of adjusting from full contact to PKA point system, Andrew managed to reach the semi-finals.
In 1972, Andrew was conferred the Best Fighter Award in a tournament organized by APKO in Bago City.
After gaining proficiency in empty hand self-defense, Andrew felt the need to go into weapons training; especially in the art of eskrima/arnis. He started with double baston in 1973, under Master Casimero “Merut” Espina in Dumaguete City. Master Espina was a granduncle by affinity and was then in his late 60′s. In the same year, Andrew learned traditional single baston from Master Col. Filisisimo “Momoy” Bulfa who was an uncle by affinity. Learning sessions with Master Col. Bulfa were done during his visits to Dumaguete City.
Fate had been good to Andrew when in 1974 he met the notable death match fighter; the late Master Tinong Ibañes of Cebu City. Master Ibañes taught Andrew the original version of Balintawak Eskrima which was the version of Grandmaster Venoncio “Ansiong” Bacon (1912-1980). Master Ibañes first started his training in Balintawak under GM Atty. Jose Villasin who later referred him to GM Bacon. Master Ibañes taught the circular footwork along with random integration of techniques which are characteristic to the original Balintawak style.
When Master Ibañes became very busy with his personal business in 1976, working within the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete, Master Nicomedes “Nick” Elizar took over the Dumaguete Balintawak Chapter. Master Elizar is the protege of the late GM Teofilo Velez of Toevel-Balintawak. Master Elizar is better known for his Nickelstick-Balintawak. He taught the international version of Balintawak as systematized by GM Atty. Villasin.
Image: Back Row (from 3rd left to right)- Bobby Taboada, Tinong Ibanez, Tiofilo Velez, John Doe, Andrew P. Obon (APO). And Front Row (4th from left) Nick Elizar (Nickelstick) and flunking him are the Velez sons Chito and Ed.
In 1979, Andrew moved to Ilioilo City to continue his studies at the Central Philippine University where he graduated. There, he met and trained Melicio “Mel” Balberde who would become one of his notable student and founder of the now famous CASASAI (Combative and Sportive Arnis System Association, Inc.). CASASAI is based in Iloilo City with international branches in Hong Kong, Jakarta, among others. CASASAI is the current grand slam National Champion of the Philippine Olympic Arnis Tournament held yearly, both for the Anyo and Labanan Women and Men Divisions.
While in Iloilo City, Andrew and Mel had an exchange of skills with Master Carmelino Reliesiba. Andrew shared the basics of Balintawak Arnis in exchange for Master Reliesiba’s hand-to-hand and knife combat. This interactive learning went on for over a year.
In 1986, Andrew and family returned to Negros Oriental, the home province of his wife. There, he groomed another protégé in the person of Flex Agbon whose martial skills were duly tested in the slums of Tondo, Manila and in a group attack in Negros Oriental.
In search of greener pastures, the Obons relocated to Misamis Oriental, Mindanao in 1987. While waiting for better employment, Andrew opened a self-defense club in Tagoloan town. There he taught Tang Soo Do and Balintawak Eskrima. His club participated in the KMP Open Karate Tournament held in Xavier University Gym, Cagayan de Oro City in 1988. The team was disqualified for its failure to adopt to the point system rule.
Image: APO with the APO-Balintawak Self Defense Club Officers
At present, Andrew works for an agro-industrial company in Bukidnon, Mindanao as a supervising agriculturist. To keep fit and brace himself with the martial arts, which has been his passion, Andrew teaches self-defense with Balintawak Eskrima as its base art.
At 58 years old, Andrew is a seasoned martial artist and a veteran tournament fighter. Andrew believes that the best rule of engagement is to win without fighting. After all, the mark of a true martial artist is one who is mild outside but strong within.
Video: Punong Guro Andrew P. Obon performing Corridas
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